Aids-related illnesses were among the major causes of death in South Africa in 2005, with the country posting a 3.3 percent jump in the total number of deaths, South Africa's statistical office said.
Mortality figures released by Statistics South Africa showed that TB, influenza and pneumonia were the biggest killers in the country in 2005, with experts suggesting that these were probably the result of the country's HIV/Aids pandemic.
"There are no big surprises in the report. It's very clear that what is driving these deaths is HIV," said Francois Venter, head of South Africa's HIV Clinicians Society.
Continuing to rise
"What is worrying is that the number of deaths is continuing to rise."
South Africa has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates, with 12 percent of the country's 47 million people believed to be infected by the deadly epidemic.
Researchers say on average 1 000 people in the country die from Aids while 1 500 new HIV cases are reported every day.
According to the statistical office, tuberculosis - which is a common HIV-related opportunistic infection - accounted for 12.5 percent of the 590 000 deaths recorded in the country in 2005, up from 12.3 percent in 2004.
Influenza and pneumonia, which can also be HIV-related, were responsible for a combined 7.7 percent, a slump from 8.0 percent posted in 2004.
HIV itself was blamed for 2.5 percent of natural deaths during the year, up from 2.3 percent in 2004.
The total number of deaths increased by 3.3 percent.
"In percentage terms it is definitely a significant increase, especially when we also take into account that during that period the increase in deaths was faster than the increase in the population at just over 1 percent," said Stats SA's Kefiloe Masiteng.
As part of the move to try to curb the severe human and economic toll of the epidemic, the government said in March it would expand access to life-saving AIDS drugs and HIV-testing and counselling services.
The United Nations says the government needs to back these measures up by encouraging male circumcision, abstinence and social programmes designed to combat violence against women. – (ReutersHealth)